Robert Mondavi Jr.

 A recent visitor to Savannah’s Food and Wine Festival in November and fourth generation scion of the famed Mondavi California wine family Rob Mondavi, Jr. and his wife, Lydia are now partnered in their own enterprises, “Isabela Mondavi Wines,” and “Spellbound,” each a part of the Michael Mondavi Family Estates portfolio. Rob serves as president and head of winemaking.  “Spellbound” was born of Mondavi’s desire to craft approachable wines from California that are still special enough to celebrate milestone events.  As a resident of California, with homes in Atlanta and South Carolina, Rob’s take on the South sheds light on its personal and earthy culture. Rob had just finished blending a Cabernet Sauvignon when he called us at 10 a.m., California time.  He explained that the palette is most sensitive in the morning, so he prefers to test his blends in those hours.

SM: Winetasting can be intimidating. How do you help people approach wine drinking in a relaxed way?

RM: Wine is such a lovely and natural product, yet there is a lot of craft to it.  It should be approachable because it is easily drinkable and soft on the palette.  It shouldn’t be intimidating.  My father always asked, “How do we dispel the mystery and keep the magic of wine?”  We need to keep wine personal and friendly; it doesn’t have to be scary like meeting the Red Queen, who says, “Off with their heads!”

SM: The pairing of foods and wines can be confusing and can keep people from being adventurous.  Some people are afraid to drink a red wine with fish. What is your approach to pairing?

RM: I love classic pairings, like a bold Cabernet Sauvignon and Lamb, or a crisp Chardonnay with trout almandine, but there is room to branch out and be adventurous.  Who says you are not “supposed to” have what you like to drink with what you like to eat?  If you are enjoying a Chardonnay with a rich pork loin, do it.  There are some combinations that naturally just do not balance, but there is no reason not to go outside the box and pair a red fish with a richer caper sauce and a Pinot Noir, or Beaujolais Nouveau.

SM: How do you serve wines when you entertain your friends and family?

RM: I like short pours with multiple wines.  We have several different bottles on the table, sip different varieties and have some fun with the combinations. This starts great conversations about wine, taste, and personalities.  It helps dispel the intimidation.

For the full article pick up a copy of the April/May issue of South magazine.